Shifting from Colossians to the Lenten virtue series.... Paul spends his last bit of time here sharing bits of ‘family news’ and greetings back and forth a variety of their community of missionaries and church planters. It’s clear that this newly formed, heavenly ‘family’ is dear to one another. He also asks them to read one-another's letters. Paul clearly wants this community of believers to be deeply connected with and to one another, of the same spirit, and in line with one another and with his discipleship. When anything experiences pressure, it can fracture or fuse... including the church. Colossians ends with an example of a well-connected community that loves one another. As we head into our next series, we’re going to talk about the Christian virtues that help us become the kinds of people, and kind of community, that can demonstrate love and connection even in pressure-filled times: that’s what the kingdom of God is meant to look like!
Paul implores the Colossian believers to do things at the close of his letter: to pray and to proclaim Jesus. He instructs them specifically in how to pray: being watchful, and thankful. He also instructs them to pray for their leaders, and to pray specifically for the Gospel to go forward. Then he turns to proclamation, encouraging the believers to live out the tension of proclamation: to be bold, yet sensitive; being wise, yet making the most of opportunities.
Paul moves to making this ‘new humanity’ practical in our real, day-to-day lives. To do this, he takes the big idea and applies it to contemporary Roman Household codes... redefining roles, and motivations, and relationships, ie Jesus is the Lord, not the husband, etc... Paul is reshaping the roman household codes around Jesus so they are transformed beyond recognition. What are current ‘codes’ that need to be reexamined in light of Jesus’s call to His followers?
Christians are part of a ‘new humanity’, therefore our minds and hearts should be oriented to things above, and we should live our lives now in light of our future in God. Our formation as Christians is found in doing the things "now" that will form us into Christlikeness, so we respond to pressure not in the way of the world, but in light of the new kingdom (mercy, generosity, forgiveness, love) that transcend our earthy boundaries and divisions.
This week continues Paul’s argument against using mystical polytheism or Jewish law as a means to salvation. Rules about what we eat and drink as well as special holidays and festivals served to make people feel right with God, but these were mere shadows of what was to come… a fuller means of salvation in Christ. He talks about how laws can make us feel like we are doing the right thing, but in reality, they lack effectiveness at really restraining sin. Only as a new humanity with the right “head” in Christ can we see real change come.
The Colossians were pressured by two different camps of thinking, mystical polytheism and old law Judaism. Paul claimed that Jesus triumphed over both human tradition and spiritual forces. Their faith was solely built on the death and resurrection of Jesus – and this faith was announced in their own baptism. Paul reminds the Colossians that God made them alive in Christ, so they no longer need circumcision or magic spells to make sure they are saved. It is in Christ alone that the forgiveness from sins and true freedom comes from. We have different pressures in our society today fighting for our allegiance. We must reject every other system or fix to save us, and claim Christ crucified only.
Paul is suffering for sharing the gospel. This truth is of utmost importance to him: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It is as Christ works in us, that we become the “hope of glory” which leads to us being “united in love” and know Christ better. We live our lives out of the strength of this truth and message, and it is through the truth of Christ that we are strengthened, matured, and led into a joyful life.
This poem or early church hymn communicates the centrality and supremacy of Christ. The rest of the letter is an exploration of the meaning of this poem. Christianity isn’t simply about a particular way of being religious, or a system for how to be saved or how to be holy, it is about a person, Jesus Christ. The poem points to a few things regarding the person of Jesus: 1. Jesus is the image of God, so we know who God is by looking at him. 2. Jesus holds together the old creation and the new. 3 Jesus is the blueprint for genuine humanness. We can discover how to be human by looking at him and he is the head of the new reconciled humanity.
Giving context for the overall book, Paul opens with wishing the people grace and peace. He thanks God for their faith and love and their carrying of the true message of the gospel. What does it look like to carry this message with faith and love ourselves? Through that we too will receive grace and peace. This is a season of grace and peace – as we enter into Advent.